America’s Cup plans must be transparent at every step

COMMENT: Sell alcohol to kids and you will face consequences

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On some levels it is refreshing to see a councillor shooting from the hip in these pages rather than gushing mealy-mouthed platitudes dressed up as PR-speak.

So two cheers for Councillor Linda Symes when she says on page 12 today: ‘If you had a company, would you consult with all of the shareholders when you make a decision? Of course not. The council is a company, as much as anything else.’

Councillors are elected by the people to represent all their interests regardless of whether they voted for them or not.

They are also elected to make decisions which affect all our lives – from the rubbish collected from our doorsteps to the care packages on offer as we reach the end of our days.

Traditionally, councillors took those decisions in committee meetings watched by a handful of members of the public. Many contentious ones were made behind closed doors.

There was little in the way of ‘talking to the people’ or so-called public consultation. And more often than not decisions were reached quicker whether we liked it or not.

However, when it comes to something which potentially is of huge economic benefit to the city, such as the America’s Cup, how it will be staged next summer is of the utmost importance to everyone in Portsmouth and beyond.

After this year’s public relations disaster by the city council in closing the seafront without telling anyone, you cannot blame residents for demanding absolute transparency about plans for the 2016 event.

And it’s a demand we support.

This year’s event left a sour taste for some and should not have done. It was perceived as elitist and aimed not at the people of the city which hosted it.

Southsea Common is just that – common land which belongs to the people of Portsmouth.

Sealing it off, forcing established traders to close their doors in case they take away business from ‘official’ outlets and banning spectators from taking their own picnics, was an insult and must never happen again.

Which is why when it comes to America’s Cup 2016 we should all know what is planned at every step of the way.

Oh, and by the way Cllr Symes, Portsmouth City Council is not a business. It’s a local authority which exists on taxpayers’ money.